In the days leading up to the Facebook IPO, one thing that pundits loved to harp on was its weakness in the mobile segment. One of the cornerstones of Facebook is its Photos feature, which helped it gain rapid traction in the first place. However, in the mobile segment, Facebook lacked a compelling app to leverage this advantage. Not only is uploading videos to Facebook through its iPhone and Android apps cumbersome, but viewing it also is a less than pleasant experience. As a result, upstarts like Instagram that made sharing photos from your mobile phone elegant and pain free quickly gained popularity. Zuckerberg himself realized this and went on to shell out a billion dollars to prevent Instagram from falling into its competitors laps.
However, long before Facebook purchased Instagram, it had set about to fix the void in its mobile offering. A team was hard at work to come up with a dedicated Instagramesque photography app. A short while back, Facebook unveiled its creation on the iTunes App Store.
The new app is called Facebook Camera. While Facebook wouldn’t win any awards for the name, it pretty much nails everything about the app. Facebook Camera is Instagram with a few differences. It features multiple photo effects to lend your snaps the ‘artistic’ touch, it enables quick sharing of photos, and it has a photo stream that just contains pics shared by your social graph. Its biggest advantage compared to Instagram is that it supports batch photo upload, which allows you to club multiple related photos together. However, it also has its share of disadvantages. The biggest one is that Facebook Camera doesn’t allow sharing of pics across social networks. No one really expected Facebook to make it easy for you to share your pics on Twitter or Google Plus, but this is still a very real drawback. Also, since the Facebook Camera photo stream includes pics that were not shared through the mobile app, not all photos look as classy as Instagram. Of course, folks who have a strong disdain for the artificial photographs popularized by Instagram will probably appreciate this.
The big question is how does Facebook Camera fit into Facebook’s future strategy. It will directly compete with Facebook’s Instagram, which is the current leader in the mobile social photography app segment. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch, “As Mark asserted, we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently, so I anticipate some healthy competition.”
Most people believe that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was a defensive move rather than an aggressive one. Zuckerberg didn’t want Google or Twitter to get a boost from Instagram’s existing popularity, so he acquired it. He had to promise to keep it independent, as otherwise Instagram wouldn’t have allowed itself to be taken over by Facebook. However, this also means that Instagram’s social graph is going to remain distinct from Facebook in the foreseeable future. Instagram doesn’t really tie into Facebook, and augment Facebook Photos. Even though Instagram is under Facebook’s control, Zuckerberg will obviously prefer if people used Facebook’s social graph to share photos on the mobile. It will increase the stickiness of the platform, and strengthen the lock that Facebook has on a user. This is probably why Facebook went ahead with the release of Facebook Camera, even after announcing the acquisition of Instagram.
Facebook Camera is currently available for download in the App Store for English speaking countries.